A Century of International Drug Control

image of A Century of International Drug Control
The international drug control system is one of the oldest consensus-based multilateral systems in existence. While the use of psychoactive substances itself extends back many centuries, today’s international drug control system is rooted in efforts made a century ago to address the largest substance abuse problem the world has ever faced: the Chinese opium epidemic. The present volume is not a diplomatic history, it aims only to present the basic development of the modern drug control system: why and how it arose, how it impacted drug production and consumption and its legacy for present and future international drug control efforts.



Executive summary

Nearly 100 years ago, the international community met in Shanghai to discuss the single largest drug problem the world has ever known: the Chinese opium epidemic. Prior to the 1909 Shanghai Opium Commission, national governments and state-sponsored monopolies played an active role in peddling opium across borders. The profits to be made were enormous, generating as much as half of the national revenues of some island states serving as redistribution centres. Even a country the size of British India derived 14% of state income from its opium monopoly in 1880.


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